Will set his watch to wake him in two hours, and settled down to odd dreams of Ernie trying to strangle him.
But at the ding, he woke and checked the instrument board. A quick trip to the privy. "I'd recommend use it now, as we'll be maneuvering with no forward thrust in . . ."
He shut up as they were scrambling, and he needed to get a "feel" for the big rock.
The attitude is a bit odd. Close to a mile long, half that at it's widest. An elongated irregular egg-shape, and as it slowly caught up to them, it looked a bit flattened. He hit it with a spot light. Lots of craters, spikes and hollows. But despite that, it looked like it was a solid chunk, not the more common peanut shape of two smaller bodies and everything they'd ever encountered.
Will leaned to check on his crew . . . passengers . . . victims . . . "Strap in I'm going to take a look at the other side, and try to judge where the center of mass is. Oh hey, we have company."
He reached and popped the lid of the communications board, and reseated the fuses he'd removed a week ago, so Mike and Kelly couldn't call anyone. Turned on the power and started sending the live video.
"It looks like metal. No spin, very odd. I'm going to circle it to get an idea of the center of mass.
"Space Force? My information is that I need to shove it north and increase the forward velocity to get it clear of the Earth. Please confirm."
Yes, definitely flattened, and the back side had some odd spheroid . . . "What the hell are those?"
Row upon row of metal spheroids. Metal, orange-peel seams barely detectable. he checked their distance, made a quick calculation. Ten foot diameter. Covering this side . . . another calc . . . "There could be a hundred thousand of those things! What the . . ."
Ernie's voice crackled over the comm. "How big are they? We found the remains of something like that back by that flying robot you smashed. It had a five foot diameter, scorched and probably ablated."
"These are about double that. But reentry, well, entry, might explain that. I'm going to give this thing a shove and see if I can get it clear of an Earth intersect."
He tapped in the commands to the maneuvering jets and drifted around to the . . . all right. The side with the spheres, I'm going to call the top. This is the bottom. The narrower end is the front. And the back looked thicker, so I'm going to . . ."
"Back off!" A strange voice over the comm. "This is Captain Hendricks of the USSF, and I am ordering you to back away from the asteroid."
Will huffed an amused breath. "What on Earth do you think I'm going to do? It is already headed for one of the worst spots to hit. So get in touch with someone on the ground and report on the effect of what I'm doing."
He rotated Abby around, not quite perpendicular to the asteroid. Half his attention of the schematic of the asteroid and Glenda's recommendation, and half just a sort of "feel" as if he were sensing with his levitation ability or something.
Right, north and forward it is. He made an almost soft contact, used the maneuvering jets to back off, then maneuvered forward, and watching carefully, moved in and make soft contact. Yes. Much better attitude. He maneuvered carefully back to a point just behind the center of mass, nose a bit forward of the tail and reached for the throttle.
"If you do not desist immediately, we will fire upon you."
The Captain sounded a little hot.
"Any word on what, if any, effect I'm having, here? Well, it's a bit soon for that, but as soon as you can . . ." Will glared at the blip on the screen. "And how are you planning to shift a big chunk of iron?"
The asteroid was starting to twist, and he backed off the throttle, and shifted a few feet left. Powered up again.
"Get me a map, Glenda. Show me how the impact point keeps shifting as I keep shoving."
Warning beeps from the radar. The missile lock light lit.
"You know, Captain, this is extreme range. You might want to hold off until you get updates . . ."
"You are shifting the impact closer to DC. Cut your engines immediately!"
Will glanced at the dotted line on the map, the impact point had moved--not much--a bit west northwest. Which, in all honesty was toward the nation's capital. "However tempting, I'm going to keep right on pushing until the impact point lifts right off the map and high enough that this rock doesn't even brush the atmosphere."
He eyed the tipping rock and backed off the throttle again, and repositioned the push plate. "Well, other than adjusting my placement . . ." He eased the throttle forward again.
Some away-from-the-mic type mumbles, then the flare of a rocket engine.
Will shook his head. "Really? It'll take half an hour to get here."
He focused his optics system on the rocket, nodded his approval. "Excellent choice. Not that it matters, but that one will be harder to dodge than most."
He kept an eye on it for half an hour, then backed away from the asteroid. nodded approvingly as the missile rotated. Tiny flares as it adjusted its trajectory. "Good reaction time." he tapped in his own course changes, triggered them and sat back to watch how the missile reacted to his ducking behind the big chunk of metal.
How much fuel does it have for maneuvering, and is it well enough programmed to dodge around something in between?
It was still actively maneuvering as the rock cut off his view of it. He fired the main engine to add some forward movement and reached out mentally, ready to absorb energy if . . .
A bright flash around the edges of the asteroid.
"Damn. That's going to roll it." He spot lit the asteroid and found a lot of spheres floating off the asteroid. He maneuvered to avoid them . . . and watched the closest as the orange peel seams split and released a tentacled robot.
Very much like the one he'd downed in the wash. Except this one appeared to have weapons.